A fascinating island-country situated off the southern tip of the Malay peninsula, Singapore is well worth a week or more of your time – with its vibrant ethnic mix, fantastic food and compelling combination of nature sites and man-made attractions, it’s a family holiday destination in its own right.
But most families get only a brief time in Singapore, en route to other destinations – perhaps Langkawi or other parts of Malaysia, Australia or New Zealand. If you’re one of them, we’ve looked at the options for different lengths of stopover or layover.
If You Have 2–4 Hours
With your baggage already checked through, and subject to a timely arrival, you should have time to make for the rooftop pool, Jacuzzi and bar at the Aerotel Airport Transit Hotel at Changi Terminal 1, accessible to non-guests for less than £10pp. (Note that the hotel is airside, so you shouldn't go through immigration to access it; all terminals are linked airside via the Skytrain and shuttle buses). Alternatively, Changi Airport also has two free cinemas (open 24 hours a day) and some great indoor playgrounds across its four terminals.
If You Have 4–6 Hours
It’ll be tight, but book a private airport transfer/mini-tour with Asian Overland Services, which can be tailored to how much time you have and what you are particularly interested in seeing. The journey from Singapore airport to the city centre takes 20–45 minutes depending on traffic, so whether this is really feasible or not depends on what time of day you arrive (i.e. not rush-hour!) and how quickly you clear customs (immigration queues are normally short). It will only be possible if you already have your boarding pass for your connecting flight. Make sure to be back at the airport an hour before your next flight at the latest. If it’s not feasible, stick to the 2/3-Hour plan.
Alternatively, with at least 5.5 hours between flights, take advantage of the Free Singapore Tours that run from Changi Airport: the Heritage Tour showcasing colonial and cultural districts including Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam, or the City Sights Tour taking in modern Singapore including the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Gardens by the Bay (where you get to stop off for a while).
If You Have 6 Hours
Take a cab or private airport transfer (as above) to the city centre and explore Gardens by the Bay with its Avatar-style Supertrees, state-of-the-art glasshouses and Children’s Garden with its fountains and sprinklers (don’t forget kids’ swimwear). Then head over to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, famous for its rooftop infinity pool but also boasting its own museum with displays on technology and the future, and an Into the Wild immersive virtual adventure through the rainforests of Southeast Asia.
If You Have 8 Hours
Do as you did in for 6 Hours, then hop back in a cab for the 10- to 15-minute journey to either the Mandarin Orchard Singapore or One Farrer Hotel & Spa, to enjoy an incredible family-friendly buffet of local, regional and international dishes.
If You Have 16 Hours
Do as you did in 8 Hours, but also build in a visit to Singapore’s Chinatown for a wander around its colourful streets packed with shops, restaurants, cafés and a dizzying array of places of worship – including the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, Sri Mariamman Hindu temple and Jamae Mosque.
If You Have 24 Hours
Do as you did for 16 Hours, but check into the Mandarin Orchard Singapore or One Farrer Hotel & Spa as above, both of which have stylish family-friendly rooms and outdoor pools.
If You Have 48 Hours
Take advantage of your longer layover by heading to Universal Studios and the other attractions of Resorts World Sentosa, including the Adventure Cove Water Park. It offers at least a day’s worth of fun; according to how much time you have left, try to build in the 6-Hour plan too. Stay in one of the hotels recommended above; those on Sentosa don’t get the best reviews.
If You Have More than 48 Hours
The sky’s your limit! See our Singapore family holidays guide for more inspiration on things to do and places to stay and eat.